Saturday, July 31

Catastrophe stalks Afghanistan as US and UK race to exit | Simon Tisdall


SUBWAYAfghanistan’s military withdrawals are problematic, as the British (1842) and the Red Army (1989) discovered at their expense. The cliffs of the Khyber Pass feature many monuments and plaques to the foreign forces that departed or were defeated. The 2021 Afghan withdrawal is less tense: The United States is not yet withdrawing under fire. But the march to the start has nevertheless turned into an unworthy sprint.

Most Americans will welcome this accelerated end to an unpopular war. However, it spells a catastrophe for the Afghans who pinned their hopes and the future of their country on Western support in fight against Taliban and Islamist terrorism and that they believed in the nation-building promises made by George W. Bush and others.

The fight is currently spreading like a forest fire from district to district. There is no peace agreement in force, there is no sharing of power, there is no ceasefire within Afghanistan and a growing fear of a conflagration throughout the country, and yet the Americans are leaving.

Two questions are unavoidable: After spending so much blood and treasure, what was achieved of lasting significance? And what the hell will happen next?

When US President Joe Biden set September 11 as the withdrawal deadline, exactly 20 years after the al-Qaida attacks that triggered US intervention, the The Pentagon decided to get out as soon as possible.. The UK and other NATO allies are following suit. Now all foreign forces, plus 17,000 mostly American contractors, are expected to disappear by mid-July.

The prospect for the vast majority of Afghans who do not espouse extreme religious views and misogynistic feudal dogmas is simply terrifying. Civilian casualties increased 29% from January to March, compared to 2020. Registered government figures 4,375 terrorism-related deaths in May, from 1,645 in

April. Among the civilian casualties last month were 50 schoolgirls from a Shiite Hazara neighborhood in Kabul, deliberate target of Sunni militants. Humanitarian workers, polio vaccinators, Y journalists, especially women, are also singled out. The terrorists’ hate agenda is too clear.

The Afghan national army trained in the West is fighting. In the absence of ammunition and supplies, 26 bases were reported to have surrendered to the Taliban last month. An elite special forces commando was killed last week in Faryab province. The ANA a great advantage, the power of the air, is evaporating as foreign technical and logistical support fades.

Entire provinces, such as Uruzgan, and provincial capitals such as Kandahar and Lashkar Gah of Helmand, for which British troops fought, risk of being invaded. Even Kabul itself may not be safe for long, according to grim assessments by the CIA and military intelligence.

Suggestions that the United States will send armed fighter jets and drones from neighboring countries to support Afghan ground forces in the future were dismissed last week. General Frank McKenzie, head of the US Central Command, warned that even if Kabul were on the brink of collapse, any post-withdrawal airstrike it would limit itself to countering terrorist plots that threatened the “homeland” of the United States..

Such unusual restraint reflects the Pentagon’s inability to find alternative bases within a reasonable impact distance. Pakistan, which covertly backs the Taliban and fell out with the United States in 2011, does not want the Americans to return.

Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, which previously housed US troops and spies, are unlikely to do so again, for fear of offending Russia. Iran is out of the question.

The lack of a credible post-withdrawal security plan is accompanied by the absence of an agreed political path ahead. Talks in Doha between the Taliban and the Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani have achieved little. Demands that Taliban leaders guarantee girls’ civil rights and education have not been met.

The US insistence that the Taliban refuse to take refuge in al Qaeda and the Afghan iteration of the Islamic State has also been ignored. On the contrary, say senior Afghan officials, these Sunni groups are working together. The goal of the Taliban? Total victory.

The CIA’s fear that Afghanistan could once again become a regional center of terror is shared by China and India. Beijing has offered investments and vaccines, seeking another link in its imperial belt and highway master plan. China’s nightmare is that the Afghan jihadists will join forces with the persecuted Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

Increasing fragmentation looms. The ethnic groups that formed the Northern Alliance in the civil war of the 1990s oppose a new Taliban takeover. Ahmad Massoud, son of the Lion of Panjshir, Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was killed by the Taliban two days before the 9/11 attacks, says the mujahideen are ready to fight.

The escalation of violence in Afghanistan could destabilize the region, add hunger and displacement to the existing problems of Covid, drought and climate change, create new waves of refugees, destroy the search for equal rights and justice for war crimes. and betraying the sacrifices of Western and Afghan soldiers. . However, it is now a very real prospect.

Western politicians, including the UK (which is withdrawing aid and troops), shield their eyes. They do not want to see, much less discuss, what is about to happen. NATO last week promised training and funding of security forces in the future and said it will “continue to support” Afghanistan. Back off, rather.

Catastrophe stalks the Afghan people. NATO claims it is beginning a “new chapter”. That is true, but it is a cause for fear, not pride. The United States and its partners achieved little in terms of permanent progress, and even that meager legacy is now under threat. Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense for Bush and Barack Obama, pleads: “Without a doubt, the situation will get worse when the American troops leave … We cannot turn our backs. “But his is a lonely voice.

To do? I have been writing about Afghanistan for over 30 years. I have reported from the country and I have personally witnessed their poverty and pain. I don’t know the answer. What are you doing? But rushing out of the house, regardless of the consequences, it certainly isn’t.


www.theguardian.com

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